NYT Sees GOP "Stampede to the Right" in 2012 and a "Hollowed Out" Center in Congress

The lead story in Sunday’s New York Times National section, “Before Vote, Republicans Make Moves To the Right” by New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman, focused on Republicans pressuring their candidates to “stampede to the right” before the elections. As the story’s original online headline unflatteringly put it: “Republicans Stampede to the Right Ahead of 2012 Election.” Weisman, who was formerly at the Wall Street Journal, made his case using ideological ratings of Republican senators from the Club for Growth, an anti-tax group. Yet the Times has dismissed ratings of ultra-liberal senators as “so-called liberal ratings.”

As Senator Orrin G. Hatch looked on in May 2010, delegates to Utah’s Republican convention booted out Robert F. Bennett, his three-term Senate colleague and Republican mainstay, chanting “TARP, TARP, TARP” to make clear that Mr. Bennett was being punished for backing the Wall Street bailout that both Utah senators had supported.

Ever since, Utah’s senior senator has been working to make sure his quest for a seventh term this year does not meet the same fate. As a result, Mr. Hatch’s voting record has shifted decidedly rightward. After receiving an 88 percent rating from the Club for Growth political action committee in 2009, he jumped to 100 percent in 2010 and then 99 percent in 2011, far surpassing his lifetime score of 78 percent.


The rightward tilt has consequences for Congress and the Obama administration as it has hollowed out the center in Congress and made compromise that much more difficult.

Yet the Times has previously dismissed GOP use of a similar rating system from National Journal when the GOP dared to apply the numbers to liberal Democrats. From a photo caption that appeared in the July 27, 2004 edition, during the Democratic National Convention: "At the Democratic convention, the Republicans' war room was decorated on Monday with the so-called liberal ratings of Democrats' voting records." A close look at the photo showed four visible printouts on the wall, each reading: "2003 National Journal Ratings," followed by the names of the senator carrying that rating (Sens. Lautenberg, Levin, Clinton and Kennedy).

Weisman lamented the faith of the ever-disappearing Republican moderates, or as Weisman termed it, “independence in the Republican Party,” while piling on still more conservative numbers.

Senator Olympia J. Snowe, for years one of the Senate’s most reliable swing votes, watched the Tea Party virtually take over Maine’s Republican Party in 2010. Her American Conservative Union rating jumped from 48 percent in 2009 to 64 percent a year later.

A lifetime of independence in the Republican Party also appeared to slip away. In the 110th Congress, Ms. Snowe broke with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, on 37 percent of her votes. By this Congress, she was with him 75 percent of the time.

Mr. Lugar has a 65 percent lifetime rating with the Club for Growth -- and an 80 percent rating for 2011. In the 110th Congress, Mr. Lugar broke with Mr. McConnell on nearly a quarter of all votes; in the current 112th Congress, he has strayed from Mr. McConnell only 12 percent of the time.

Weisman then went through Club for Growth figures for several Republican House members.

The Club for Growth also issues scorecards for ultra-liberal Democrats like California Sen. Barbara Boxer (lifetime rating 2 percent) and Dianne Feinstein (lifetime rating 6 percent). Maybe the Times will write those numbers up one day.